CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 7 . . . . October 14, 2011
Stephanie is the camp kid that counsellors dread. She hides when activities are about to start and delights in playing mean jokes on both her fellow campers and the counsellors in charge of the cabin. But, just as camp is ending, Stephanie disappears again and later, when Stephanie’s body is found stuffed in a hollow tree, Casey, her camp counsellor, is arrested for murder. The second counsellor, Jess, tries to convince authorities that, despite the overwhelming evidence against Casey, they’re making a mistake. Remaining a “true blue friend” becomes more and more difficult as media and peer pressure begin to take their toll on Jess. Will she be able to find the courage she needs to remain loyal to her best friend?
Deborah Ellis has won awards for her young adult fiction set in developing countries so True Blue is a change of setting, but Ellis retains her ability to focus on character and relationships which are larger than their surroundings. Jess is the narrator and the protagonist. At times, she seems committed to helping her long-time friend through these tough times, and one feels that she truly cares a great deal about Casey, but the commitments seem to end as nothing more than totally ludicrous ideas, such as breaking Casey out of jail. When it comes to action, Jess cannot even bring herself to write a letter to her friend. When the in-crowd at school unexpectedly invites Jess to join them, she is overjoyed and enthusiastically tells them details of her friendship with Casey. In other words, she plays into their hands and provides information she later sees in the local paper and on the Internet and then is abruptly dropped by her new “friends.” Readers may not like Jess and are unlikely to sympathize with her actions and lack of loyalty to her friend, but Ellis seems more interested in underscoring how difficult it can be to maintain friendships when outside events and peer pressure begin to erode relationships.
Jess narrates throughout the novel. The book is set within ‘bookends’ which show that Jess, five months after the events have taken place, has left town, once again shirking her responsibilities both to her friend Casey and to her own family. Occasionally within the book, there are excerpts from Jess’s journals, past and present, which tell readers about her long-standing friendship with Casey as well as the event at camp prior to Stephanie’s disappearance. Readers hear about Casey only through Jess and second-hand reports from her teachers and other students. The only time Casey’s character narrates in the first person is a handful of letters written from jail while she awaits trial.
Ann Ketcheson is a retired high school teacher-librarian and teacher of English and French who lives in Ottawa, ON.
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